By MICK WHITWORTH
West Midlands delivery service Heart Distribution is helping independent retailers pinpoint products made within a fixed distance of their stores as supermarkets muscle in on the local foods market.
Heart, the local food distribution arm of Spar wholesaler AF Blakemore, is using Microsoft’s MapPoint software to identity which of its 140-plus suppliers fits within each retailer’s definition of ‘local’.
“Supermarkets are mentioning ‘local’ as a buzzword,” said Heart commercial manager Caoire Blakemore, “but when you drill down it falls apart quite quickly, whereas in farm shops it’s a genuine point of difference. So why not push it?”
Heart operates across a swathe of western England from Gloucestershire to Staffordshire, providing a subsidised distribution services for small, regional producers.
Blakemore said different retailers had their own definitions of ‘local’ and ‘regional’, and while there was “a big affiliation with county”, this did not work for everyone. “For example, Just Crisps is a really good brand from Staffordshire, but that’s a big county and some people might not see it as ‘local’.”
She continued: “It’s not something we throw in the face of customers, because it could be unfair to some producers, but we’ve noticed that in the last couple of months people are becoming very much more strict with their local sourcing policies.”
While interest in organic foods has waned, Blakemore said there was potential for the local food boom to have real longevity, and she forecast a backlash against spurious ‘local’ claims by supermarkets. But independents needed to get their own act together and be complete transparent about where their products are sourced. “They need to get their message across before people really start to question the likes of Tesco,” she said.
Read a full interview with Caoire Blakemore in the July edition of FFD.